Saturday, February 27, 2010

Spiced Apple Pancakes

When the Supertoddler and Ninjahusband were craving pancakes one morning recently, I thought it was a perfect time to try Spiced Apple Pancakes {p. 515} on for size.

Apples and cinnamon are a classic, delicious combination. The pancakes themselves were easy to put together, but lacked a bit in flavor. However, the topping made up for some of the sweetness, and the combination of the two provided a very pleasant pancake experience indeed.

I'm not dying to make these again anytime soon, but this is a good, solid pancake recipe, made a little more special by the apple topping.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ginger-Molasses Bread with Blueberries

Much as I adore it in all of its incarnations, I’ve never made gingerbread before. So since I had all of the ingredients on hand, and since anything with molasses piques my interest (I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what that was until hopping the pond), I decided to bake up the Ginger-Molasses Bread with Blueberries (page 404).

I substituted white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose and a mix of light brown sugar and dark brown (the stuff is amazing, it’s moist and wonderfully fragrant, calling to mind molasses; I love it so much, I sometimes sneak pinches just like that.)

The aroma emanating from the oven? Dreamy. The bread? Delicious. The half cup of cornmeal really does wonders for the consistency. Tender, moist, and flavorful, there’s nothing more I could wish for in a sweetbread. I’ll be keeping this in mind for next winter and a big audience. (Frozen blueberries = definitely the way to go.)

- - Ulpia, bakes 'em up - -

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Vegetable Lo Mein and Hot and Sour Soup


Warning: super long post ahead!

I know, I've been making a crazy amount of stuff from this book lately. Not really sure why, it just sort of worked out that way. Anyway, it was Chinese New Year (a.k.a. Lunar New Year) last weekend and I didn't make or go out to eat Chinese food at all. I wanted to but just didn't get a chance to so I decided to at least make a couple of Chinese dishes from the book a few days ago. Even though these are not traditional new year's dishes, or even dishes I grew up with, I settled on Vegetable Lo Mein With Tofu (page 234) and Hot and Sour Soup (page 152).

For the lo mein, I ended up using linguine. I normally don't substitute semolina pasta for Chinese wheat noodles but the texture and width worked really well. The recipe follows a standard format for stirfried noodles: prepped vegetables, precooked noodles and premixed sauce. I made the recipe as is at first (tweaked it afterwards, keep reading) and I found it really lacking in seasoning and flavour. Not a huge deal for me. I'd rather have a dish that is underseasoned so I can adjust accordingly, than one that is overseasoned.

Now this is just my personal take on it but here are my suggested tweaks. The recipe initially calls for only 3 tbsp soy sauce. It does say to adjust the seasonings when you're done, but in my opinion, 3 tbsp as a starting point is way too little for 12 oz of noodles. It should be closer to 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup. That may sound like a lot but if you compare recipes, the Pad Thai recipe uses 1/3 cup of soy sauce for 12 oz of noodles. The amount of sherry is about right since the flavour is fairly strong. The sugar however should also probably be upped to 1 tbsp or more to balance out the other flavours. The last thing that this dish would have benefitted from was a few spoonfuls of vegetarian "oyster" sauce. You know when you make some Cantonese dishes at home and it never tastes quite right with just soy sauce? That missing flavour is usually from the vegetarian "oyster" sauce. Other ingredients too, but the "oyster" sauce makes a huge difference. I also ended up adding some chili oil with roasted peanuts (the peanuts are in the oil) and sriracha on the side

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a "bad" recipe by any means. The basic blueprint is there, but keep in mind that you will want to up the seasonings by quite a bit.

On to the soup!


Hot and sour soup is one of those things that is never really the same from restaurant to restaurant. Pre-vegan, I consumed so much hot and sour soup and have had so many different variations with the most interesting one being a really sweet tomato-based one. It was kind of odd, but good at the same time. But I digress...

Yes, I know the soup looks a bit oily in the pic. It's most likely from the sesame seed oil at the end (and maybe because I used roux...). Anyway, this recipe is a good starting point for hot and sour soup. Balanced flavours that really come together after simmering. I did have a few small tweaks though.

I was completely out of cornstarch so I ended up making a light roux first (that's why my soup isn't clear) and then adding in the water and bouillon powder. The recipe calls for a light broth since the flavour and sodium comes mostly from the other ingredients, so I cut the amount of bouillon powder in half. I also didn't have any bamboo shoots on hand and I really don't like water chestnuts so I skipped that. I did add in both shiitake and white mushrooms along with some sliced cloud ear fungus for texture and some chopped bok choy.

On to the seasonings! For the chili paste, I used (double) chili garlic sauce. I ended up adding in a little bit more soy sauce, a pinch of sugar and also a splash of balsamic. What? Yeah, I said balsamic. I wanted to add in a splash of Chinese black vinegar, but I didn't have any on hand. Balsamic is an okay substitute in small doses as long as it's not the primary flavour. It adds a similar depth in taste as Chinese black vinegar and worked well here too. The sesame seed oil at the end helped to round everything out nicely. The soup was even better the next day.

All in all, everything turned out pretty tasty, but only after some major additions for the noodles. Keep that in mind if you're making them.

Lastly, a belated gung hay fat choy to everyone!

Ms. Veganorama

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Baked Pasta Shells and Broccoli (but with macaroni)


I'm always up for trying new pasta and "cheese" recipes so I decided to make Baked Pasta Shells and Broccoli (page 224) but with macaroni. The recipe uses the Mornay-Style Cheeze Sauce (page 552) that Gymmie also made previously.

The Mornay sauce came together easily and is also low fat as it uses cornstarch to thicken instead of a roux. I think though that this would have been better with more fat since it is baked (more on that below). What I liked about the Mornay sauce is that it used vegetable stock instead of plain water. It added a fuller flavour to the sauce, but of course it depends on how good your stock is. I like to use Bryanna's broth powder or the Seitenbacher brand powder.

The entire dish was nice and super creamy before it went into the oven but after it came out, not so much. The pasta absorbed almost all the sauce as you can probably tell from the pic. Now, I do make mac & "cheese" a lot and I know that there is some absorption after baking or in the fridge but this was a huge amount of absorption. The only difference really between my usual sauce and this one is the fat. I make a full fat roux (margarine and oil) for my own. Maybe someone can enlighten me on whether fat content in a sauce would affect absorption?

Regardless, the dish was still tasty, just a little drier than I would like. If making this, I would suggest coating the cooked macaroni with a bit of oil or margarine before adding the sauce, or using some fat in the sauce, or baking for less time, uncovered (to crisp up the breadcrumbs), or skip the baking entirely, or make an extra batch of sauce to serve on top, which is what I did today with the leftovers.

Ms. Veganorama

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Apple "Waldorf" Loaf - Guest Post by Mindy

Apple Waldorf Loaf

For my second guest spot, I once again chose something in a loaf form. Having just posted that I inevitably fail at loaves, this seems like a bad choice at first, BUT I received my brand new range on Monday, with my first ever convection oven setting! What better way to check out the supposed greatness of convection than to put my loaf ability to the test.

The Apple "Waldorf" Loaf (page 405) is easy to put together with standard pantry ingredients. It comes together quickly and bakes in about an hour. I subbed pecans for the walnuts and used golden raisins. I also had to use brown sugar as I was out of white. This is a tasty, moist, wonderful loaf, and yes, it even baked well for me! It was very exciting to cut in half to check and see if I had the standard dense area at the bottom, how my loaves usually turn out. There was a little bit, but nothing like I am used to. I call this a great success and will enjoy being a new loaf convert.

- Mindy, Guest Blogger

Austrian Noodles and Cabbage

Austrian Noodles and Cabbage

Sometimes you just want something simple and comforting and nothing says comfort like Austrian Noodles and Cabbage (page 213).

This dish is easy to throw together and oh so tasty. I used wheat noodles instead of pasta because I felt like having a softer noodle, green cabbage instead of savoy and I added in extra margarine. A lot of extra margarine because well, that's how I like it. :p

There's not much else to say about this except that this is excellent comfort food. Simple ingredients with a tasty result. It doesn't look like much, but it's delicious.

Ms. Veganorama

Friday, February 19, 2010

Falafel Sandwiches and Classic Tabbouleh

Falafel Sandwich with Classic Tabbouleh

Most vegans I know love falafel sandwiches. What's not to like? Fried seasoned chickpea patties with fresh ingredients in a soft pita. It's been a long time since I had a really good falafel and the last one I bought recently sucked (Maoz — it was dry and flavourless) so I put Falafel Sandwiches (page 117) on my recipe list along with Classic Tabbouleh (page 87).

Both dishes were easy to make, but I'll start with the tabbouleh. I used fine bulgur since that's all I had on hand and omitted the cucumber since I forgot to put that on this week's grocery list. The tabbouleh calls for 1/4 cup of oil but you can always reduce that if you are limiting the amount of oil in your food. I did ramp up the lemon juice though after tasting but the recipe is a good starting point, so adjust the lemon to your tastes. I do wish I had cucumbers though because it would have added some extra brightness to the salad since my tomatoes weren't great.

For the falafel sandwiches, I used canned chickpeas. My food processor is terrible so in the process of getting the onions to get chopped down along with the parsley, I ended up almost pureeing the entire mixture instead of just processing to combine. After refrigerating, I did have to add some flour to thicken everything up. Even though it was still pretty soft and sticky, they still fried up nicely. Crispy on the outside and soft and flavourful on the inside.

I served up the falafel sandwiches with hummus and tabbouleh inside the pita and a dash of hot sauce on mine. We had no tahini in the house so I had to skip that. Normally I would also throw in sliced dill pickles, but we were also out of those. The sandwiches were great and filling and SO much better (and cheaper) than my last takeout falafel.

Ms. Veganorama

P.S. As you can probably tell, all my dinners this week are from the book with more to come. I'm a slacker and have a hard time following recipes but I wanted to make an effort to make a whole bunch of stuff from the book. Go me!

Spaghetti and T-Balls with Marinara Sauce

Spaghetti and T-Balls with Marinara Sauce

A vegan take on a classic dish: Spaghetti and T-Balls (page 194) with Marinara Sauce (page 194).

Let's start with the marinara sauce. Super easy to throw together with pantry staples. This recipe is a great base for your tomato sauces and easily customised to your tastes. The better the quality of your crushed tomatoes, the better your sauce will be. I added in lots of chopped garlic (see the chunks up there), diced onions, some red pepper flakes and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I like adding balsamic because it adds a bit of depth to tomato sauces.

The T-Balls were also really easy to throw together. Similar to the Tempeh Tantrum Burgers, everything goes into a food processor and then cooked. The only thing I changed was that I used regular flour instead of vital wheat gluten and they still held together really well. I opted for the baking method but before I threw them in the oven I gave everything a spritz of oil. They baked up perfectly and held together.

The seasonings were just right combined with the sauce in this dish. Tasty but not overpowering. If you are going to use these without a sauce, ramp up the seasonings. These T-Balls would totally be great in sandwiches too. Of course they still taste like tempeh, so if you don't like tempeh, skip these.

This dish was a nice break from the usual "meat" balls that I've made for spaghetti (usually TVP-based) and it was nice to have pasta with a homemade sauce again instead of jarred (I confess I use jarred a lot). If you're looking for a hearty and comforting meal, make this.

Ms. Veganorama

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Korean Noodle Stir-Fry and Soy-Glazed Tofu

Korean Noodle Stir-Fry

Anyone who knows me knows that Korean food is one of my favourite cuisines. Unfortunately, it's not a very vegan friendly cuisine so I end up making my own dishes including cabbage kimchi, chajang myun/jajang myun and jap chae/chap chae. So when I saw that Robin had a recipe for Korean Noodle Stir-Fry (page 242) a.k.a. jap chae, I had to put that on my list of recipes to make. Instead of the seitan called for in the recipe, I made Soy-Glazed Tofu (page 283).


For the tofu, I used firm tofu pressed overnight in a Tofu Xpress (I think it is totally worth the money) and then marinated and baked. The marinade ingredients were well balanced and tasty and the tofu baked up perfectly in the time alloted. It is great hot or cold and worked great with the noodles. This recipe is super easy so give it a shot and quit buying pre-marinated tofu!

Now on to the noodles. Since I make a lot of Korean food, I had the specific noodles (dang myun which are made from sweet potatoes) on hand. Unless you have a Korean grocer or an Asian grocer that stocks Korean food, chances are you won't be able to find it. I buy mine online from HMart. You could substitute mung bean noodles or rice vermicelli but it really won't be the same since dang myun is firmer and chewier. Also, mung bean or rice vermicelli are a lot more delicate and could easily turn to mush if you're not careful.

My package of noodles was 12oz so I adjusted the other ingredients accordingly. Also the recipe says to soak the noodles for 5 minutes. That may be fine with bean noodles or rice vermicelli, but dang myun need to be cooked for about 5 minutes, then drained and rinsed with cold water. Well, I rinse them at least. Also if you're using uncut dang myun, after it's cooked, cut it with kitchen shears to manageable lengths so it won't be unruly.

For the vegetables I used everything called for an also threw in some sliced cloud ear fungus which doesn't taste like much but adds texture. Since it's a stirfry, add anything you'd like. Sometimes I add red pepper and spinach.

The dish itself is pretty easy to throw together, but there is prep work involved with cooking the noodles and slicing the vegetables. You'll want to have everything prepped before you start. Taste-wise, everything was perfectly balanced for me, but you can adjust any of the seasonings to your liking. Some people like sweeter jap chae, so taste it as is and then add more sugar if you lean towards the sweet side. This recipe makes tons, especially if you use 12oz of noodles, but fear not, the leftovers hold up really well when using dang myun noodles and are also great in lettuce wraps too.

If you are new to Korean food, this is a great dish to make because it doesn't have any flavours that you would be unfamiliar with (like cabbage kimchi), isn't spicy, but still very flavourful.

Ms. Veganorama

Friday, February 12, 2010

Drop Biscuits

Drop Biscuits

I got the cutest email the other day while I was at work. It was from the Ninjahusband and Supertoddler. It said something to the effect of "We wanted biscuits, and we thought we'd help you out with your project, so we made Drop Biscuits {page 407} from 1000 Vegan Recipes. There are several pictures of the finished project attached." Apparently my food blogging is so ingrained in my life that my husband and toddler continue it on, even when I'm away from home!

Ninjahusband said that the biscuits were easy to make, although the dough was a little stiffer than he'd expected for drop biscuits. It could be because of our dry climate. The biscuits had a great flavor and texture, and paired perfectly with Earth Balance and jam. Apparently both of them liked the biscuits a great deal, as there were only a few left when I got home from work. I was able to try one of the leftover biscuits, and they were quite delicious, even cold. I particularly enjoyed their flavor.

These were easy, quick, and delicious, and will likely become my go-to drop biscuit recipe going forward.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl {and Ninjahusband + Supertoddler by proxy}

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Vanilla Walnut Cookies

Vanilla Walnut Cookies

I am a shy vegan. Although I believe strongly in animal rights, and the abolition of the property status of non-human animals, I am rarely vocal about these topics unless directly asked. My "activism" exists mainly in the practice of showing people how easy and "normal" it is to be vegan, and how delicious vegan food is. Along that vein, I bring treats to work with me nearly every Tuesday to share with my coworkers. Vanilla Walnut Cookies {page 432} were last week's pick.

These little cookies were easy to throw together, and quite unique, having ground walnuts in the dough itself. Robin recommends decorating each cookie with a walnut piece, and I took that recommendation.

The cookies themselves were sweet, but not too sweet, with a pleasant mouthfeel. They were a touch biscuity, but who says that cookies can't be biscuity? I thoroughly enjoyed both the flavor and texture, and so did my coworkers. They disappeared very quickly. Which, after all, is the best compliment a cook can get.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tempeh Tantrum Burgers

Tempeh Tantrum Burgers

Like a lot of vegans I know, I'm always on the search for a good vegan burger recipe. Not of the grainy/vegetabley/healthy variety, but the hearty, "meaty" kind which also includes tofu burgers and bean burgers. Pretty much a patty that is uniform in texture with blended ingredients. Anyhoo, when I spied the Tempeh Tantrum Burgers (page 118), I knew I had to try the recipe.

The ingredients are easy to find with tempeh being the most "exotic" ingredient in the recipe. This is a bonus for those who don't really like buying specialty items for just one recipe. The burgers were also super easy to put together. After simmering the tempeh, you just throw everything into the food processor (the cooked tempeh provided the right amount of moisture), shape and fry. They fried and browned quite nicely, BUT with any homemade vegan burger (at least those that don't use vital wheat gluten or some other form of thick binder like flour) they have a tendency to be tender and can fall apart. No biggie though as I'm sure you're all used to that. I actually doubled the recipe and put 1/2 of it in the fridge to fry up the next day. The stuff from the fridge shaped and fried better I think because the oats had a chance to absorb everything overnight.

Taste-wise, they were good but they could have used more salt and seasonings. Maybe some smoked paprika, onion and garlic powder and a few dashes of cumin. You'll want to taste the mixture after you process it and adjust the seasonings to your liking. If you don't like tempeh, don't make this. Because there aren't any strong flavours, the burgers taste like tempeh with nothing to mask that distinct tempeh taste, which you may or may not like.

Robin suggests using dijon on the burgers which I know would pair nicely, but I went with ketchup, yellow mustard and vegenaise (under the lettuce) on homemade buns with lettuce, onion and some sad looking, out of season, grocery store tomatoes.

All in all, this was a new take on a vegan burger for me and a nice change from my usual tempeh dishes. The Mr., who is really picky about tempeh, said "they were pretty good." If you like tempeh, give this a try but adjust the seasonings before you shape the patties.

— Ms. Veganorama

P.S. With this post, we have cooked through 200 recipes!

Quick Apple Crisp

Quick Apple Crisp

Apple crisp is one of the first things I ever learned how to make back in the olden days of junior high school Home Ec class. I fell in love with the dessert instantly, with its rich crumbly topping and soft sweet apple pieces. has apples, so it's "healthy", right? Right! Or something. However, for all the apple crisp I've made in my life, I've never made an apple crisp quite like Quick Apple Crisp {page 472}.

I was drawn to this recipe because of my love for apple crisp in general, and because of a couple of unique ingredients in the recipe. The apple layer is sweetened with maple syrup, which sounded like a genius idea to me. Also, there were walnuts included in the topping.

The maple syrup turned out to be not such a great idea. I generally make the apple layer by tossing apples with sugar, cinnamon, and flour {to help create a "sauce" out of any extra liquid that is exuded from the apples during cooking}. However, adding maple syrup just added to the liquid factor. The bottom layer was basically apple soup when it came out of the oven. It was not the end of the world. I just used a slotted spoon to serve the portions, and dumped the "soup" out of the bottom of the pan at the end. I think that the maple syrup would have been a good idea if some corn starch or flour were included in that part of the recipe, as it gave the apples a really lovely flavor.

The walnuts in the topping were DYNAMITE. The Ninjahusband decreed that I should never make apple crisp again without including walnuts in the topping.

Over all, the topping was delicious. The apple part could use a little work. It was a good recipe, in general, it just needs a little tweaking.

-- Your Friendly Neighborhood Batgirl

Monday, February 8, 2010

Chickpea and Vegetable Loaf & Golden (Mushroom) Gravy - Guest Post by Mindy

Chickpea and Vegetable Loaf

I decided on the Chickpea and Vegetable Loaf (page 265) for dinner,as it has fairly standard ingredients, seemed pretty easy, and sounded like it might be a nice, hearty meal. The instructions are easy to follow, although I had some issue with it all being too much for my food processor and I ended up dumping it all into a big bowl to finish mixing with my hands. It seemed a bit dry to me but I resisted the urge to add some sort of liquid to it, and I just pushed it all together into the loaf shape and into the oven it went. My changes - less onion (due to an onion-hating boyfriend), 3 garlic cloves, I subbed some thyme for the savory, as I have never been able to find it, and I had no parsley. I also used 1/2 of a large potato, as I had no small, and 2 small carrots, as I had no medium. I really hate instructions that call for things like that. It's so subjective and I do wonder if some of my problem with the dryness could be due to not enough or maybe too many vegetables.

While waiting on the loaf to cook, I decided to make the Golden Mushroom Gravy (page 547) to go with the loaf, as suggested in the book. One problem - it calls for a can of chickpeas and I had just used my last can to make the loaf. So doing what any good vegan would do, I scanned the cupboard for something else, and decided Great Northern beans would work quite nicely. Now one other problem, I detest mushrooms. So yeah, there wouldn't be any of those in my gravy. I decided to just add the rest of the beans (it calls for one cup, leaving about 1/2 a cup from the can) instead, so there would be something there. Again no savory, so I subbed some oregano this time. The gravy was very thin, probably due to the lack of mushrooms taking up space, so I also added some cornstarch slurry to try and thicken it up, but I didn't use enough and it was still quite thin.

I tend to like loaf-y things, but I have a horrible track record in terms of actually making them. I shun pumpkin bread, as it will inevitably fail, and make only muffins. Loafs just don't like to cook for me, so I was of course quite wary going into this. And yes, I did check my oven temperature! So an hour later, I pulled an ugly little loaf out of the oven and just hoped it would be okay. I let it sit for 10 minutes, as instructed, while I finished up the gravy, mashed potatoes and salad I was making to complete our meal. I sliced up the loaf with a little effort (it got pretty crunchy on the sides and bottom) and looked in the middle to see if it looked done. Not too bad, so I plated it all up, as shown above.

Now, I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this loaf. It is definitely a bit dry and dense, although having ample gravy definitely made a big difference with that. The flavors are good, if not that exciting. The boyfriend seemed to like it pretty well, but he's not really a good indicator on food, plus I gave him the end piece, which would have been the most done. As I cut out a little piece further towards the middle, I found it seeming stringier (from the gluten) and a bit less done. It's my loaf failures of the past come to haunt me. But I don't think this loaf is beyond redemption. I think the basic mix would probably work well as patties perhaps, or maybe in muffin tins. I will probably try frying up the leftovers, as I have often had good luck with lackluster loaves from frying the slices. The gravy was very good flavorwise, despite the thinness, and I will enjoy the ease of it in the future.

- Mindy, Guest Blogger

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Banana-Blueberry Pancakes with Blueberry Sauce

Pancakes were another one of those things I first encountered after hopping the pond. In Old Country, we make crepes. And we fill them and roll them up and they serve the same purpose (only they can be made savory as well). Since coming here, though, I’ve fallen in love with all things Brunch.

Enter the Banana-Blueberry Pancakes (page 516) with Blueberry Sauce (page 498). Fluffy and mellow in flavor with the occasional pleasant burst of blueberry, these pancakes are the perfect conveyer for the blueberry sauce. The sauce is very simple to prepare and positively wonderful. It would turn any dessert into a mini masterpiece and works just as splendidly over sweet breakfast fare. I used a blend of three sugars to give it even more character (white, light brown, dark brown).

And because winter isn’t over for some people, behold a snowflake pancake!

Delightful breakfast (actually, rebel that I am, I made this at night). And the sauce is going straight into my repertoire.

- - Ulpia, rebel rebel - -
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